No Contest

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Thai food has become my comfort food. It’s the cuisine I crave on the regular. It’s become a big problem.

At work we had an open call “Salmon Chowder Contest” that would run on our menu at the restaurant if it was chosen to be the winner. This is the soup I made for the contest.

I decided to base my recipe off of one I made last year for my Tom Kha Gai soup. It’s not your traditional chowder, but it’s crazy delicious. Like, it’s really good. Trust me.

Forget tradition and try this! You won’t be disappointed.

Coconut Salmon Chowder
Yields 2 quarts

FOR THE CHOWDER

INGREDIENTS
2 nubs medium-sized galangal, peeled and sliced*
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, sliced thin
5 kaffir lime leaves
6 Thai bird chiles
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 yellow onion, julienned
2 cups Yukon potatoes, peeled and medium-diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans coconut cream
2 cups vegetable stock
1 pound salmon, skin-off, cut into medium-sized cubes
1/8 cup fish sauce
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup Thai basil, picked and minced
1 cup cilantro, picked and minced
1 lime, zested and juiced
salt and pepper, to taste
*galangal is a rhizome from the same family as ginger, used primarily in Thai, Lao and Vietnamese cooking. Find it at your local Asian supermarket.

METHOD
Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and process to a paste. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the paste, stirring till fragrant; about 5 minutes. Add the onions and saute till lightly browned. Add the potatoes and garlic and stir for a minute.

Turn down the heat and add the coconut cream and stir. Stir in the fish sauce and sugar, and bring to a gentle simmer, then add the salmon and simmer for an additional 5 minutes or till salmon is cooked.

Add the cilantro, Thai basil, lime zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a healthy drizzle of Thai basil oil. (Recipe below).

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FOR THE THAI BASIL OIL
Yields 2 cups

INGREDIENTS
2 cups Thai basil, packed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 3/4 cups olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

METHOD
Blanch the basil leaves in boiling salted water for 20 seconds. Remove the basil and shock in an ice water bath. Add in the garlic and olive oil. Process in a food processor till fully combined.

Store in an airtight container overnight in the refrigerator. Not he next day, strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the leaves.

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Tom Tom Club

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Feels like I’m dreaming but I’m not sleeping.

My mom introduced me to Thai cuisine at a young age. She and I frequented a local family-owned Thai restaurant almost monthly. We’d always order the Tom Yum Soup and Pad See-Ew dishes. Those were our favorites. We’d crave them all the time, discussing the delightful sourness of the soup and the tender bites of Chinese broccoli in the noodle dish. We became such regulars that the owners of the restaurant had already placed our orders by the time we sat down and got our drinks (I always had Thai Iced Tea with my meal).

My first obsession was Tom Yum soup, then came my meeting with Tom Kha Gai. In Thai, the dish literally translates to Spicy Galangal Chicken Soup (Tom = Spicy Soup, Kha = Galangal, Gai = Chicken). Thai cuisine reminds me so much of my mom, so I crave this food when I’m missing my family most. I’ve tried Tom Kha Gai soup in almost every Thai restaurant I’ve visited, but this recipe (with my own personal tweaks) is the closest to the authentic Thai flavors I grew up tasting.

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Tom Kha Gai
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
1 each galangal, peeled and cut into 3 2-inch pieces*
3 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
10 each kaffir lime leaves*
6 each Thai bird chiles
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk
8 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves
Hot chile sauce (such as Sriracha), to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

*Cook’s note: Galangal is a rhizome related to ginger, although it has a tougher skin that’s lighter in color. It also has a distinct peppery flavor much different than ginger’s.
 Kaffir limes are native to the Southeast Asian countries and have astringent qualities. Their leaves carry a lovely and distinct aroma. Galangal and kaffir leaves may be difficult to find, depending on where you live. Check out your nearest Asian markets for these speciality items.

METHOD
In a large saucepan, bring the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai bird chiles and broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until flavors are well pronounced, about 30-45 minutes. Strain the broth into clean saucepan; discard the galangal, but keep half the amount of chiles and half of the lemongrass.

Add the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the mushrooms, skimming occasionally until the chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are softened, about 20–25 minutes.
Mix in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and fresh herbs. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
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